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Why You’re Resting All Wrong And How To Fix It

Why You’re Resting All Wrong And How To Fix It

Life can be all activity. We have worries, tasks, questions and goals to work on. Those breaks in our day are few. It could be the end of the day, or a 15 minute opening in your schedule. Whatever is available, that is when you need to rest your tired limbs and mind.

So you sit in front of a TV and watch a CSI marathon. Or you take a TMZ.com break and scan through the latest gossip. That is what you and I call rest…and that is why you are resting all wrong.

We think we will rest by just taking away what made us tired. It makes logical sense, right? If you have a thorn in your thumb that is causing you pain, and you can remove that pain by simply removing that thorn. But the body and mind don’t always work that way.

Have you ever felt a bit numb or maybe even more tired after doing something mindless, like watching TV or staring at your office’s ceiling? Yeah, me, too. This means you weren’t truly resting.

There are three approaches to to get the rest you need, and they are all based on how your body and mind work on a biological level. These are: Acceptance, Change and Surrender.

Acceptance

Tiredness and stress build throughout time. This is called the allostatic load. Your mind owns this load, like an ever-growing to-do list. Every time a new item you need to consider comes up, it gets added to this to-do list.

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As you are already guessing, this affects your attempts to let go of all that stuff. Your mind will continue to run laps around that list unless you do something about it.

One way of shifting your mind’s “attention” is to Accept the reality you are in. When you are caught up in the milieu of things you don’t recognize that milieu. You just keep running; we keep chugging away.

This is where mindfulness can help. Being mindful means being aware of what is happening right now. It also means you are able to detach yourself from the hubub running around you. It’s as if you ceased to become You, the busy bee, and instead were watching You, The Busy Bee, the movie. You achieve an awareness beyond your to-do list–you transcend it.

This probably all sounds meta, but there’s a way you can easily achieve this, and that is through meditation. Meditation helps put you in that state of mindful awareness (among other great benefits). You rise above the taxing reality around you. You go to a space where you can breathe, in every sense of the word. Being aware of what is happening now helps release the tension and tiredness that comes with it.

Studies show that 15 minutes of meditation provide you the same amount of rest as one hour of sleep. That is how powerful of a restful reboot you can get from Accepting your reality.

Change

But the world keeps spinning. If you are not in a mindful space, walking away from something does not mean you have completely let it go. That’s not how you work.

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Our minds are great at focusing on something (finding an earring, chasing a goal). They’re not good at focusing on nothing (that is why negative goals like, “I will lose weight,” are hard to stick to). This is called absence blindness. Our minds have trouble holding onto what’s out of focus.

When you stop doing the work that has wiped you out and do nothing instead, your mind doesn’t follow along. It can’t focus on absence, so it keeps working on what was there before–the stuff you are trying to get rid of.

This is where Change helps. Just like working a muscle, you give that muscle rest by switching your efforts to another muscle. Instead of taking away, you re-direct the course of the snowball.

Winston Churchill, a man who led a nation through WWII and fought off the Nazis’ attempt to destroy his country (i.e. he was probably quite busy), said this about how we approached resting:

Change is the master key. A man can wear out a particular part of his mind by continually using it and tiring it […] The tired mind can be rested and strengthened, not merely by rest, but by using other parts. It is not merely enough to switch off the lights which play upon the main stage […] a new field of interest must be illuminated. […] It is only when new cells are called into activity, when new stars become the lords of the ascendant, that relief, repose, refreshment are afforded. – Winston Churchill, Painting as a Pastime

If you spent hours working on your computer, go for a jog.

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If you are tired of doing house chores, do some doodling outdoors.

If you spent the whole day doing mindless, monotonous work (which can most definitely wipe you out), do something mentally stimulating, like writing, or taking free online classes.

If you spent the whole day trying to outsmart Hitler, do some painting.

Work out a different part of yourself. It might seem counter-intuitive–replace work with more work?!–but it does the trick. You’ll not only stay active in a fulfilling way, but you’ll give that other part of you some much needed rest.

Surrender

Sometimes it’s all too much. You don’t want to center yourself. You don’t want to scribble or learn about anything. You just want to pass the heck out. Which means you should.

Fatigue is real. It’s not just being tired, it is being chronically tired. Your body is going into preservation mode (it can even cause bouts of depression).

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The only way to approach this is to surrender to your needs. Surrender is often thought of as a bad thing. It doesn’t mean you gave up. It means you’re bowing out for your greater good.

Sometimes surrender means giving up trying to understand and becoming comfortable with not knowing – Eckhart Tolle

To surrender means to shut down, i.e. sleep. It can also mean to indulge: give yourself a bubble bath, drink some hot cocoa and listen to music, or drink a beer and take a nap. Take care of yourself as if you were sick, because you kind of are. Just like when you have a cold or are injured, do what makes you feel good and helps you recover. Whatever you need to get yourself out of the red, you must do it now.

I encourage you to try these approaches today. Tweet at me to let me know how they’ve helped you get the rest you need.

In mindfulness, thrive.

Featured photo credit: Val Gardena Groden Marketing via flickr.com

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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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